Donna Szoke

Associate Professor, Visual Arts
Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts (MIWSFPA)

In her role in the Department of Visual Arts at the Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts (MIWSFPA), Associate Professor Donna Szoke is an interdisciplinary artist whose practice includes video, installation, animation, drawing, writing, experimental collaboration and printmaking.

Szoke is one of 11 Brock researchers and scholars who received funding under the 2020-21 round of the VPR Canada Games Grant program. Here, she discusses her research project titled “Painted Turtles.” 

Please give a brief overview of your research project.

Inspired by the Games’ mascot Shelly, this research-creation art project forges and fosters connection between the 2022 Canada Games, local community and local turtle conservancy. All eight local turtle species are federally designated as a species at risk. How can we inspire our community to engage with these turtles at risk? We will use drawing, colouring and animation culminating in an art exhibition to build meaningful connections between turtle conservation and the local community.

What do you expect will be the outcome of your research?

Select District School Board of Niagara (DSBN) classrooms will take part in a virtual field trip to the Ontario Turtle Conservation Centre (OTCC). The DSBN students will then create images of turtles, which will be transformed into a small animation by Visual Arts research assistants. By engaging the local community, the project creates playful connections to the Niagara Games mascot, at the same time reinforcing the importance of protecting threatened turtle species in the region.

How will this contribute to knowledge or understanding of the Canada Summer Games?

The research project seeks to understand what affective processes inspire a lasting legacy of the Games through embodying ecological activism. It connects community partners such as DSBN students, research resources from the Ontario Turtle Conservation Centre and Visual Arts students to animate and enact a collective positive local legacy of the Canada Games.

How did you become interested in this research?

I am a Visual Art professor and I create videos, installations, drawings, animations and prints, and have even created a phone app. I use artistic creation as research practices to develop new knowledges manifested through artistic outcomes, scholarly pursuits, experimental investigation and community activism.

How do you plan on sharing your research?

The work will be exhibited free for a broad audience at the Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts Visual Arts Gallery. The work will be shared on social media, on my personal artist website, the MIWSFPA Visual Arts page and the website of the Research Centre in Interdisciplinary Arts and Creative Culture at Brock. A looping GIF of the animation will be gifted to the OTCC for its website, promotional material and other purposes. We will also create a custom watch face from assets that can be sold by the OTCC store to generate donations.

Do you have any advice or tips on how colleagues in your faculty can incorporate the Canada Games into their research?

This is a great opportunity. Not to ‘sportify’ our research, but to ‘researchify’ sport. I see it as an opportunity to create meaningful connections to community and enact positive social change.